Head-Thieves, Deaf-Mutes And Liars...Part 2
I watched a recorded interview of the deceased monarch anchored by the legendary Chief Adebayo Faleti and another elderly gentleman no less erudite in Yoruba tradition and folklore than his mate.
From the content of the interview, persons cited therein and the offices they held at the time, it was clear the programme was recorded about 15 years ago....during the first term of Olusegun Obasanjo as the civilian president of Nigeria.
I had been a committed reader of Faleti's Yoruba novels in elementary and high school, so his sheer presence commanded me to stay with the program and up my TV volume!
But as the interview wore on, the extreme brilliance embedded in the Ooni's responses to questions did more than impress me.
His Royal Highness Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubushe II delved into Yoruba history from the times of Lamurudun and Oduduwa....right through to his immediate predecessor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. He spoke about Alaaafin Aole and how his breakage of a "covenant never to attack Ile-Ife led to the disintegration of Oyo Empire".
He cited a government gazette of 1903 which lists Yoruba Obas traditionally entitled to wear crowns.
He threw light on the recurring Modakeke impasse and his roles in providing elderly counsel to politicians... as he regaled his interactions with Hausa and Igbo monarchs...as they synergized to sustain the unity of Nigeria.
He cleared the air on the role of Obafemi Awolowo in his ascension to the throne and how Awo's wife, the Yeye Oba of Ile-Ife, H.I.D. Awolowo "led his relations to seek his wife's hand in marriage!
His emphasis was "service" as he rejected cash and material gifts offered him by his subjects... a tradition he described as "palapala"! His ingenious method of halting such ingrained practice was to give twice the cash equivalents of material presents back to the offeror!
Coming from a background of academia and wealth intelligently acquired through rare business acumen, my initial worry about the dead man was ..."what was this apparently decent man doing among Oro people as to render his wives and even his male children so unqualfied to attend his funeral or catch a mere glimpse of his corpse"?
Perhaps his sons were not initiates of the Oro Cult and such was the bane of their being barred... so I reasoned. But even if they were, would fellow cultists have deemed it wise to allow them witness the traditionally-mandatory dismemberment of their father's corpse?
Obviously the late king must have performed laudable feats during his lifetime. But even though a dead man may not be personally held responsible for circumstances of his funeral and burial, can we honestly state that Oba Okunade Sijuade was absolutely unaware of such royal rites of passage for dead kings? Was he totally oblivious of the fact that his corpse would be buried with human heads? Did he not know that fellow humans would need to be killed by beheading to achieve this goal? Or that his own corpse would be mutilated and his successor may cannibalize on his flesh as he similarly feasted on the flesh of his predecessor? Didn't he know that his corpse would belong to the Oro Cult as soon as he kissed the dust? Didn't he know his wives and kids would be barred from his burial and even prevented from seeing his corpse? If we concede to the premise that it is easier to change things from within than without, to what extent did the late Oba champion reforms during his lifetime?
Even as he transmuted into a "born again" Christian...
....in his last days...
Dr Tosin Akindele is a medical practitioner and public affairs analyst.